Every game of chess has a story to tell, some central focus or theme that stands out that strongly influences the play. Games featuring pawn races and mutliple pawn-promotions can produce some of the most fascinating struggles. There is something magical about pawns when they advance and threaten to promote: not just the fact that pawns can promote, but rather how a mere pawn of humble origins can all of a sudden turn into a game winner
The position below is from the game between IM Cruz and GM Peralta played just a few days ago in the international tournament in Montcada i Reixac (Spain). This game attracted my attention because of the struggle of the passed pawns. Both sides are trying to win and this game was very important for deciding the top prizes.
POSITION AFTER 30 MOVES:
GM F. PERALTA (ARG)
IM C. CRUZ (PERU)
The position is very assymetrical: Black has a Queen and 2-connected passed pawns on the Queenside. As compensation, White has Rook , Bishop and a very strong passed d-pawn. First impressions are that Black must be winning somethere, that all he need do is try to prevent the d-pawn from Queening and advance his connectors. However, things are not as simple as that: White’s pieces are active and coordinate very effectively, as we shall soon see. In actual fact, the game is roughly balanced–and a draw is the correct result. But the fight is very sharp and immensely entertaining!
It is White’s move and he must plough the way for the d-pawn to advance
31. Re7 Qd8 32. Rb7!
A very important move! Later the threat of Rb8 will oblige Black to lose a tempo by moving his King off of the 1st rank. In the meantime, Black must advances his connectors…
32… b4! 33. d7 Kh7! 34. Be5!
It is remarkable how White is able to use his Rook and Bishop for both defence and offence at the same time! Here White threatens B-d4-b6.
So Black has no time to waste:
34… a4! 35. Bd4! a3! 36. Bb6
It is now evident that the Black Queen will have to sacrifice itself for the Pawn in a move or two
36… Qf6! 37. d8Q mission accomplished 37… Qxd8 38. Bxd8
White has made a lot of progress: his passed pawn was so strong that it won the Black Queen! However, now White can not stop one of the Black passers from Queening!
38… a2! 39. Ra7 b3! 40. Kh2!!
The only move to save the game! Black was threatening 40…b2 41.Rxa2 b1=Q-ch winning the Rook and the game. White’s last move means that the Black pawn will not promote with check.
40… b2 41. Rxa2 b1Q 42. Rd2!
White sets up a fortress and the game is a positional draw, which was agreed to after a few more moves. A fascinating struggle!
42… Qe1 43. Ba5 Qc1 44. Bb4 f6 45. Rd4 Qb2 46. Kg1 Qc1 47. Kh2 Qf1 48. Rf4 Qa1 49. Bd6 Qb2 50. Rf3 h5 51. Bg3 Qb4 [½:½]